We are currently witnessing and surviving the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020 which means a lot of things. It means no going out to restaurants, no working out in gyms, no visiting parks or shopping malls, and perhaps most importantly no-in person schooling. For a lot of people, this is an entirely new concept. After all, only about 3.4% of the school-aged population are homeschooled. This means there are currently a lot of overwhelmed parents who don’t know how to navigate teaching their children. Thankfully, there are not only many resources available, but even Zoom/Online video classes being taught by the teachers their children are used to.
Even so, there are some things that those video conferences and online resources cannot provide, especially due to being in quarantine. Connecting with other children is a needed part of a child’s development, not only because it keeps them happy, but because it allows them to be around and learn about children who aren’t like themselves. Being social often helps to teach tolerance and acceptance. These are two things that are proving to be very important in our growingly diverse world.
Social learning is as important, if not more important, as any other discipline. A 2D experience can only do so much to help a child feel truly connected to their world. One way to help give more than a 2D experience is to add Augmented Reality learning into the process. An example of this is the Tolerance Tykes series which will be loosely discussed throughout this article. A feeling of connection/connectedness is important for every developing mind.
It is important that the parent/guardian also takes a role in teaching their children and being an active participant in their schooling lives. With that being said, here are three tips on how to deal with teaching from home and how to keep your children socially engaged, while socially distancing.
Teach Yourself to Teach: Understanding Learning and Teaching Styles
There is a bit of a debate over the importance of learning styles. This is largely because they’ve been taken out of context and used as if everyone only has one learning style and the other ones can be put on the back burner. This is not true. However, it is important to understand what learning style your “student” gravitates towards to teach them as efficiently as possible. It should be noted that the most common learning styles are kinesthetic (movement based), auditory, and visual. All three can be sometimes difficult to implement in the classroom among many distractions, but at home certain tools can prove helpful to teaching social skills and tolerance.
Teaching styles also vary widely, often depending on the teacher. However, there are a few things that are widely agreed on when it comes to teaching children. Two of the most important things are implementing discussions and feedback. Without discussions, teachers aren’t easily able to get a grasp on what their students understand or don't understand. Discussions also offer insight into what students are genuinely interested in and what they might find more stimulating. Well held discussions allow children to feel important and connected to not only whoever they’re speaking to/with, but the topics they’re speaking about.
If you’re unsure of where to start when it comes to the idea of discussions, lessons, and how to gather feedback - grab a book. Don’t just grab any book, or even necessarily a book for teachers, but simply a children’s’ book that works as a teaching/learning too. An example of this would be any book from the Tolerance Tykes series (preferably the first one due to the added Augmented Reality component that immerses the child into the stories of each of the characters). Tolerance Tykes is a series that aims to teach tolerance in children by connecting them with 10 different children facing 10 different challenges/issues. These books come with easy to follow/fun to read poetry, pictures, discussion points, questions, and lessons attached to every character in the book. This means you get not only a fun “read out loud” experience, but ways to connect with your children and have them thinking deeper about themselves and their interactions with other children.
It can be hard knowing where to start when it comes to teaching, discussing, and even reading to your children, but with children’s’ books such as Tolerance Tykes, it’ll be much easier.
With Children, Patience and Persistence are Key
It can be frustrating to teach, and even interact on a deep level with children. Every teacher knows that teaching, much like other jobs, can be disheartening to say the least. Although, teaching can also be very rewarding. Part of the key to teaching is to simply be patient with students and realize that they are just children. They can only sit down still for so long. In fact, most children can concentrate only for about 2-5 minutes times how old they are. So, for a 4 year old or 5 year old child, they can generally concentrate anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes. If your child happens to have ADD or ADHD, this time is even longer (https://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/library/pediatric_health/pa-hhgbeh_attention/). It is important that this understanding of their sometimes-low concentration time is noted, but also that a lot of this time depends on how interested a child is in whatever task they are doing. It should not be, in any way, unmotivating to hear.
The issue of concentration is generally dealt with by having larger spans of time where children can take cognitive breaks such as recess, library time, art classes, etcetera. This is why, at home, especially in quarantine, that opportunity being lost may cause them to feel more restless than usual. Patience is really key here, as they are, after all, only human.
Take frequent breaks with your child/student and bring them back to your teaching activity by even re-looking over some of that material. This means be persistent. Even if they don’t seem interested in the moment, they may become interested later on, especially if breaks are factored in. During their breaks, allow them to choose what they want to do and therefore give them a sense of power over their situation. They are at home, which may have been a place to decompress and relax, yet now it is switched to both a learning and play area. Their environment is entirely different to them now so do not assume they aren’t a little stressed out by this change. It’s natural to be a little averse to change. If possible, try scheduling video hangouts/chats with their friends so they can have as close to in-real-life social interaction as possible. Currently, hanging out physically with friends isn’t an option (due to COVID-19), but when it does, and if you do choose to continue homeschooling, make sure they are getting that needed social interaction. Social activity is a necessity for humans as we are naturally social beings.
Be Unique - Using Books and Apps as Teaching Tools
Lastly, be unique. Children are so used to technology in their daily lives that it often feels like it’s the only way for them to properly concentrate. By making an effort to include things that they’re interested in, you’re creating a space for them to take comfort in. This is not to say you should put your child in front of educational tv programs for hours at a time and that’s that, but you should adapt to these technological mediums. Learning applications, and other new technologies have opened the door for you to give your child more of an immersive experience to give them a front seat in their own learning. An example of a newer unique way of immersion-based learning is using Augmented Reality.
What exactly is Augmented Reality (AR)?
Let’s break the phrase “Augmented Reality” into two words: augment and reality. To augment is to add to something, to increase it, make larger, etc. And reality is simply the world/your world as it is and/or seems to be (in simple terms). Augmented Reality is therefore the creation of a world larger than the one we know - an addition that extends our reality. Augmented Reality learning allows children to see a world they may never have known, whether that is something realistic such as seeing and interacting with characters much like themselves, or using their phones to watch their environment expand into something like the moon, or even a land of fairies or dinosaurs.
Learning with AR gives children the opportunity to experience things, worlds, and even people, in a way that links them to technology as well as their own innate curiosity in the world around them. It allows for social learning and communication as they connect with environments and characters that they may not have ever been able to connect with in the real world. An example of an effective learning tool that uses AR is the first book in the book series, “Tolerance Tykes: Teaching Tools for a Better Tomorrow”. This book comes with a free Augmented Reality App that allows children to interact face to face with the characters from the book.
The “Tolerance Tykes” book functions as a learning tool featuring a variety of characters that each deal with different challenges including but not limited to, dealing with blindness, having muscular dystrophy, being adopted, and more. Each character has a poem, discussion questions, and a possible lesson plan to follow. Books like these allow children to not only read more, but to learn social skills/lessons about dealing with diversity, that they may not otherwise learn, especially when being homeschooled. The AR component helps not only draw children in but keep them there. This book, in particular, also allows parents/guardians/teachers/ to interact with their children in a more structured, easy to follow way, that does not require much effort on their part.
Creating a space for children to learn can be difficult, time consuming, and frustrating, but doing it yourself, on some level allows you to put some of the knowledge they’ll grow up with in your hands. It is an altogether rewarding experience. Parents and teachers alike should also remember to have fun while doing so. Whether you homeschool year-round, are simply homeschooling because of an unfortunate series of events, or simply want to connect with your child once or twice a week, you take some of these tips to heart.